Well, not really killing them, but harming their ability to learn, perform, focus, attend, form peer relationships, regulate their emotions and behaviors, etc? Think about the toys our kids play with these days. Do they really have to play with the toy? Do their toys require much imagination and the physical input of a child? Take remote control cars, for example. You just stand there and press a few buttons and it does everything by itself not requiring much physically out of you. Think about the DS’s and play stations and all the other hand held devices kids use to entertain themselves these days. Not much physical movement or imagination is needed there. They don’t need to interact with a friend, take turns, learn to negotiate rules and they certainly aren’t getting any of the sensory input that is so vital for a child’s development and learning. Here’s one, how many parks and playgrounds do you see without swings these days? I have even heard that one entire state has outlawed swings because they are dangerous. What if I told you that swinging is one of the best ways to stimulate a child’s sensory system? Whatever happened to Lite Brites, crocheting pot holders for our moms, braiding friendship bracelets and all of the other activities we did as children which required the use of our fine motor skills? We want children to hold pencils, yet rarely have they participated in activities promoting fine motor skills and a pincer grasp.
Think about what we did as kids. We were outside running, jumping, riding bikes, roller skating, playing hopscotch, bouncing on pogo sticks, playing hula hoop, kickball, and dodgeball in the street with neighbor kids without a parent in sight. Our parents didn’t have to worry they way us parents have to worry these days.
Now, what if I told you that our ability to perform (i.e. hold a pencil, focus in the classroom, be skilled in our movements and not clumsy, sit still in a chair, ride a bike, hit a moving ball with a bat, etc) all comes from the sensory input our bodies give our brain. What is becoming more and more common, is that children have an immature sensory system and by that I mean they do not have an adequate sensory foundation to perform the skills we are asking of them. These skills aren’t acquired, they are learned. Kids need vestibular input (“where am I in space” “am I up or down” “am I moving fast or slow”, equilibrium), proprioceptive input (input about movement and our joints and limbs), and tactile input (touch-hard/soft, cold/hot, pressure, pain) in order to learn. What is happening is that kids aren’t getting this sensory input (vestibular, proprioception, tactile) because they are not always getting the chance. Kids need toys they can manipulate with their hands and make it do something (without the toy doing everything by itself), they need to bounce, jump, run, spin in circles, do activities to promote balance, and get their hands dirty. That is how kids will learn. By doing activities that promote those types of input, kids will learn. We can not expect a child to sit still until they are comfortable with how to move their body.
So, let’s think about switching out the DS for a Lite Brite or the playstation for scissors and colors. Not all the time. But make sure to mix them in. Let’s put a big exercise ball in the room if they are watching TV so they can bounce on it. Let’s bring back trampolines and let kids jump as much as their hearts desire. Let’s even let them jump while they do their homework to enhance learning. Let’s play Twister with our kids, swing them, let them slide, let them walk on the curb next time we are going in to a store, finger paint, play in the leaves or sandbox, build with blocks, put puzzles together, play imaginatively with finger puppets, manipulate play-doh, roll down a hill, put them up on our feet and play airplane, do sack races, and bring back the sit and spin.
All of these activities provide some of the crucial sensory input children need. Let’s allow them to move so we can teach them to sit and focus (remember, the movement comes first). Let’s look at toys and activities and make sure that the majority of what a child does in a day is providing some sort of vestibular, proprioceptive, or tactile input. By doing this, we will build a sound sensory foundation and help set our children up for success in curricular and extra-curricular activities, as well as, forming relationships, and regulating their behaviors and emotions.
So…maybe not killing them. Helping them. Questionable. Should they be forbidden. Absolutely not. However, let’s make sure to get back to some basics to ensure our children are developing correct. Setting themselves up for success now and later. Ensuring they build the right foundations!